Bags packed, ready to go: Kids, Delhi’s classrooms meet again

Published on Feb 07, 2022 11:31 PM IST

In light of a steady decline in Covid-19 cases, DDMA on Friday decided to reopen higher education institutions and coaching centres along with schools for classes 9-12 from February 7

Students attend a class at a school in Mayur Vihar on Monday. (Amal KS/HT)
Students attend a class at a school in Mayur Vihar on Monday. (Amal KS/HT)
BySadia Akhtar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Seventeen-year-old Nikhil Jain, a Class 12 student of Government Co-ed Sarvodaya Vidayala in Rohini’s Sector 21, was delighted to be back in school on Monday and meet his friends and teachers months later, as schools in Delhi reopened for classes 9-12 after a prolonged closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We returned to school after a long time. For the first time in two years, there is a sense of optimism that we will be able to spend the remaining days of our school life in our classrooms. Online classes can never match the charm of a physical class, where we get to interact and share our experiences with our friends and teachers in a free, uninhibited manner,” said Jain.

In light of a steady decline in Covid-19 cases in the national capital, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) on Friday decided to reopen higher education institutions and coaching centres along with schools for classes 9-12 from February 7. It also decided to reopen schools for students from nursery to Class 8 from February 14.

Schools were shut on December 29 last year, as infections began to spike in the city.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday tweeted photos of children being welcomed at different schools.

“Happy to see children back in school again. They also got frustrated. I pray that the need to close schools does not arise again,” Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.

Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia visited a few schools in the city and interacted with students.

Sisodia, who is also state education minister, said, “Covid-induced closures have done a lot of damage to school education. Of course, online classes helped us continue the education of our children during the pandemic. But the online mode can never replace in-person classes. We are alert. It will be ensured that all schools follow Covid-19 protocols strictly.”

“It is expected that after schools reopen, our teachers and parents will work together to reduce the learning gap,” said Sisodia. He added that the strong turnouts on Monday demonstrated that parents were confident about sending children to school.

Khushi Gupta, 17, another student of the government school in Rohini, said that the experience of attending a class with others after a long gap reminded her of the pre-pandemic days. “After a very long time, it felt like we were transported back to pre-pandemic times. Nearly the whole class was present today and it was good to see so many friends together in the same class without any boundaries,” the Class 12 student said.

She added that the challenges and distractions that came with online classes had helped her appreciate the role played by teachers in schools. “During online classes, I used to face a lot of challenges due to network issues and audio problems. We are also more hesitant in raising queries. In class today, I was able to interact much more freely,” said Gupta.

Jyoti Arora, principal of Mount Abu Public School in Rohini, said nearly 48% of all eligible students attended class in person on Monday. “We expect attendance to pick up from tomorrow. Students are happy to be back and will definitely motivate their friends to return to school. To make up for the learning loss, we will be holding doubt clearing sessions so that all queries of students are addressed,” said Arora.

She added that the school will begin transport services in the coming days after getting consent from parents and deciding the routes.

Sudha Acharya, principal of ITL Public School, Dwarka, said the school recorded around 85% attendance on Monday. “Finally, children are back in school. The response was great and we are confident that learning will get back on track now. We will also be starting bus service from next week,” said Acharya, who is also the chairperson of the National Progressive School Conference (NPSC) -- an umbrella body of more than 120 private schools in the city.

Sukhbir Singh Yadav, principal of the Rohini Sector 21 government school and president of Vice and Principals’ Association of Delhi, said the turnout was good for the first day and is expected to pick up.

“Today, we saw around 50% attendance. We expect the attendance to go up to 70-80% by tomorrow. Since students face challenges with online classes, we hope to see pre-pandemic levels of attendance very soon,” said Yadav.

The move to reopen schools came after strong appeals from educational institutions and parent groups, who argued that the city’s Covid-19 caseload was at its lowest levels in weeks and the benefit of keeping children home was far outweighed by the learning loss and damage to their physical and mental well-being.

The city’s Covid-19 graph has returned to levels last seen in late-December last year, with the test positivity rate now below the 5% mark for six straight days, and daily cases on Monday dipping to their lowest in 40 days, in signs that the Capital has seen the back of its fifth wave of infections. Fewer than 1,000 Covid-19 patients were in hospital, as on Monday.

Educationist Meeta Sengupta said schools could facilitate the transition of students from online to offline classes through well-planned activities and interactive sessions. “Schools need to understand where the children stand in terms of learning. They can understand the experiences of children through games and other informal activities in place of assessments. It might be easier for children to transition into offline learning if interactions take place in a fun-filled informal manner. They might perform better and teachers will be able to gauge a genuine understanding of their learning levels,” said Sengupta.

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